Fostoria's original factory borrowed its name in 1887 from the town in which it was built: Fostoria, Ohio. The business moved to Moundsville, West Virginia in 1891 where they produced glassware of the highest quality through 1983 when Lancaster Colony bought the business. Three years later, sadly for Fostoria fans, the factory closed for good.
Looking back to 1887 through 1909, as seen on an old advertising paperweight, Fostoria touted manufacturing "tableware, colognes, stationers' glassware and candelabra." They also made inkwells, sponge cups, numerous vases, finger bowls and even fruit jars with marked tops along with other varied items back in the early days.
Many of the first tableware pieces were needle etched or wheel cut, both popular forms of decoration for early 20th-century glass. Fostoria also offered lines decorated with bands of ruby red or gold around the tops, which were also fashionable back in the day.
Learning About Fostoria
One of the best resources to locate when learning about early Fostoria is an out of print book titled “Fostoria: Its First Fifty Years” by Hazel Marie Weatherman. This noted Depression glass author wrote some of the first serious books on collecting Depression glass and elegant glass, and she included many invaluable early catalog reprints in this particular guide. Those are not only interesting, but they provide clues about the oldest pieces made by this respected company.
Of course, Weatherman made sure readers were provided information on all the most popular patterns along with company history, making it even more useful. It shouldn't be too hard to find a secondhand copy of this book through used booksellers and online auctions, and it's a must for true Fostoria fans or any vintage dealer working to identify this type of old glassware for resale.
Fostoria’s American Pattern
Of all the highly successful patterns included in Weatherman's book, American is Fostoria's all-time bestseller. Introduced in 1915, American was produced for many, many years in a wide variety of pieces ranging from dinnerware to elaborate punch sets.
Lancaster Colony continued to produce this glass as the American Whitehall pattern after it bought out Fostoria. For quite some time, this pattern stood as the longest running and most successful in US glassmaking history, which is quite a feat in a very competitive industry. While this pattern is no longer being marketed, some of those most recently made pieces confuse novice collectors and should not be valued as highly as older American wares. It’s wise to take care buying "Fostoria" pieces that seem on the newer side and read up on this pattern further before making a costly purchase.
Another point of confusion is that Indiana Glass Company made the original Whitehall pattern, which looks very much like American, in the 1960s. Many of these pieces are confused with American, but the quality of the glass is not as high as that produced by Fostoria and the shapes of the pieces and angles of the cube-like pattern are different upon close examination. Visit a knowledgeable glass dealer or glass show to see the quality of Fostoria's American pattern personally, and it will be easy to tell these apart.
Other Fostoria Patterns and Colors
Collectors preferring dinnerware and stems on the delicate side often seek well-known patterns such as Versailles, June, Navarre, Chintz, Vernon, and Romance, among others. These pretty stems were popular as bridal registry crystal patterns for many years, and they frequently turn up in estate sales.
While Fostoria made many of their gorgeous wares in clear versions, including the durable Colony pattern and Lariat with its curlicue rims, lovely shades of pink, green and yellow along with others were also used to tint many of the etched patterns. Most of these shades mix well with fine china patterns making them very popular with collectors and mixers of old and new. It’s also good to note that in general, colored glass made by Fostoria will sell for a higher price than clear pieces in the same pattern.
How and What to Collect
Some Fostoria enthusiasts prefer to collect entire sets of dinnerware in one color, including serving pieces and stemware. For larger patterns like American, this can amount to a massive grouping of glassware worth thousands of dollars when complete.
Other collectors focus on specific pieces like stemware, vases, or candlesticks in a variety of colors for a unique, diverse collection. There have even specific books targeted to these focused collections published in the past, recognizing how important these focused collections have become.
Clubs for Fostoria Fans
Many dedicated collectors around the country belong to Fostoria collecting clubs such as the Fostoria Glass Society of America. These organizations offer newsletters, educational events, shows, and other resources through their websites, providing a great service to budding glassware hunters and seasoned collectors alike. Belonging to a club like this is the very best way to learn about old glass from others dedicated to accurate research.
Other collectors belong to local or regional glass collecting clubs, which offer the same type of camaraderie and learning experiences with an opportunity to socialize with other glass lovers nearby. A good list of these clubs can be found on the National Depression Glass Association’s website. Online resources are also available via Yahoo Groups and Facebook.